What are the best fabrics for outdoor furniture? Designers share their top picks – stylish and functional in equal measure

The best fabric for outdoor furniture is all about durable materials, without compromising on style

(Image credit: Marina Hanisch, Casa Branca/photography Carmel Brantley, Andrew Martin)

With the summer months almost in full swing, getting our backyards set for afternoons enjoying the sun and al fresco dining is on most of our to-do lists.

Refreshing your outdoor space with outdoor furniture is one of the best ways to create a comfortable environment to make the most of the long nights and warm temperatures, and carefully choosing the right fabrics for these pieces will ensure you prioritize durability just as much as aesthetic appeal.

But what is the best fabric for outdoor furniture? We asked interior designers for the top fabrics recommendations they gravitate toward when sourcing outdoor furniture. If you want to elevate your outdoor space this summer, these ideas reflect the latest fabric trends while withstanding the weather all summer long.

Best fabric for outdoor furniture

'We shouldn’t have to compromise when using fabrics outside,' says David Harris, Design Director at Andrew Martin. 'Long gone are the days of slippery nylon cushions and covers: now there is a whole host of luxurious and well-designed fabrics that can be used.'

1. Outdoor performance fabrics

porch with white sofa, white cushions and white side table with garden flowers in the background

(Image credit: Marina Hanisch)

Choosing weatherproof fabrics that will endure rain and sun exposure throughout the summer months is the most important consideration for your outdoor furniture fabrics. Opting for an outdoor performance fabric is a must for designers, preventing fading, stains, and general wear and tear.

'When shopping for outdoor furniture, always opt for cushions and outdoor pillows that are upholstered in performance fabrics specially meant for outdoor use,' says interior designer Kathy Kuo.

When we asked designers for their recommendations for the best performance fabrics, one brand came up more than most: Sunbrella.

'Sunbrella fabrics stand out as the quintessential choice for outdoor furniture, effortlessly striking a balance between style and durability,' explains interior designer Kari Bennett, founder of EDGEiD. 'These fabrics boast a remarkable ability to withstand the rigors of outdoor use while retaining their aesthetic appeal. Sunbrella fabrics are also mold and mildew resistant, making them ideal for humid climates or near water features.'

In this calming outdoor living room designed by Marina Hanisch, part of the New York Design Center's Access to Design program, you can see that outdoor fabrics can be as stylish and sophisticated as those you would use inside your home.

2. Solution-dyed acrylic fabrics

outdoor seating area with light blue chairs, floral cushions and green trees in background

(Image credit: Casa Branca, photography Carmel Brantley)

When looking for specific performance fabrics, designers recommend solution-dyed acrylic fabrics which are known for their durability.

'I exclusively use solution-dyed acrylic fabrics for outdoor furniture,' says designer Mark Cravotta, founder of Cravotta Interiors. 'Some brands that are great at making acrylics look and feel like high-end interior fabrics are Perennials Fabrics, Great Outdoors by Holly Hunt, and Link Outdoor.'

'Look for fabrics woven with solution-dyed acrylic,' agrees Andrew Uihlein, President of Casa Branca. In this outdoor seating area, Casa Branca's Giardino Palma performance fabric features across the chairs in a calming blue and white color scheme.

Before deciding on the best outdoor fabric for your backyard, Andrew recommends 'requesting memos whenever possible' as 'touch and feel varies significantly across brands'. Additionally, 'have fun using contrasting panels, piping, and trim with playful patterns' to ensure your outdoor fabric doesn't shy away from showcasing design appeal.

3. Outdoor weaves and eco-digital prints

wooden garden bench with green and red patterned cushions in front of garden bushes

(Image credit: Andrew Martin)

If fading to your outdoor fabrics due to sun exposure is a key concern, David Harris of Andrew Martin recommends opting for outdoor weaves and eco-digital prints.

'Outdoor weaves and eco-digital prints all perform incredibly well against light and fading, and they can withstand a shower or two as well,' says David.

In addition, David recommends choosing designs that echo your home's interior design style for a cohesive look.

'We see outdoor spaces as an extension of your interior aesthetic, and that has only been re-emphasized this year. Opt for outdoor styles that fit in with the overall look and feel inside your home, for connectedness.'

4. Light colored fabrics

two outdoor chairs with yellow and white patterned upholstery and green side table with vase of flowers and drinks

(Image credit: Cathy Nordström)

It's important to consider the color trends of your outdoor fabric, too. Choosing a light-colored design rather than anything too dark will reflect the sun and can aid in creating a more comfortable outdoor seating environment, especially when temperatures soar.

'For outdoor furniture, we usually like to go with light, neutral colors, as they tend to mitigate heat best,' says designer Laetitia Laurent of Laure Nell Interiors. 'This also allows for the visual focus to be on contrasting natural color elements, such as the pool or landscape features.'

'There's an array of solution-dyed acrylic fabrics to choose from,' continues Laetitia, who favors decorating with neutrals in outdoor spaces. 'We like natural finishes with some plush elements for comfort.'

Below, you can shop some of our favorite outdoor furniture options from Wayfair, which feature the highly-rated Sunbrella fabric cushions.

Paint & Color Editor

Emily is H&G's Paint & Color Editor, covering all things color across interior design and home decor. She joined the team in the summer of 2023, having studied Fashion Communication at university before working in various creative roles ahead of making the leap into interiors. She lives in Glasgow where she loves admiring the city's architecture, frequenting her favorite coffee spots, and sourcing vintage furniture for her tenement apartment. Emily's interior style is inspired by the simplicity of midcentury design, mixed with more playful modern pieces that inject small (but bold) doses of color.